A senior police officer leading the county’s response to the coronavirus crisis has described 2020 as his hardest ever year in the force.

Cumbria’s Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery said this year ranked as his most difficult in 29 years of policing after the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As well as his high-ranking role in the force, ACC Slattery has also headed Cumbria’s Local Resilience Forum, which has brought together a number of councils and community groups.

Reflecting on the year, ACC Slattery said: “It’s been extraordinarily difficult from a policing perspective – police never expected to get involved in something like this.

“Having led the response, it weighs heavily on us.

“None of us wanted to have to be tough on people and it’s terrible we have to do it.

“No one wants to be in this position.”

“In 29 years of policing it is undoubtedly the hardest time – and I’ve been through some tough times.”

The officer said adapting to changes in legislation and how the virus was developing made policing especially difficult.

“Tasks have been different at different times," he said. "Every month has meant a new priority."

A number of people in Cumbria have been prosecuted for breaching coronavirus restrictions in 2020.

These include people who travelled to friends' houses, allowed others to stay at homes and travelled to places without reasonable excuse.

Several people who visited the county from further afield were also prosecuted.

In most cases, lockdown flouters were hit with a fine.

But the officer said he was grateful to the majority of people in the county who have stuck to the rules over the year.

“I’ve been hugely impressed with the public and hugely proud to be Cumbrian," he said.

“Cumbrians have been public-spirited – they know they are protecting vulnerable people and NHS staff by following the rules.

Frequently, doctors have said the biggest impact on tackling the virus has come through convincing people to stick to the rules.

“Ultimately, it’s about saving lives.”

Along with the rest of the country, Cumbria was plunged into lockdown at the end of March.

Pubs, restaurants and more shops were allowed to open in July.

That was followed by the tier system, which placed restrictions on mixing with people from outside your household, while gatherings were restricted to six people at the most before the second lockdown was imposed.